Going into any David Lynch film there is an expectation that you’ll leave the cinema a little confused. As he’s demonstrated with Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, he loves a mystery, especially if it involves doppelgangers, strange creatures and storylines that don’t quite make sense. All this is true of Inland Empire, but Lynch, armed for the first time with a digital camera, ventures so far into the excesses of split narrative, talking rabbits and the obscure that only the most die-hard fan will find merit in this celluloid rune.
After viewing the final product, so without hope was Newmarket, the film’s original US distributors that Lynch bought the rights back and released the film himself Stateside. Lynch made this film over a period of two-and-a-half years without ever producing a final script and would turn up on the set before letting the actors know what he wanted them to do that day. This haphazard approach spills over into the plot, and after the initial exposition it’s nigh on impossible to follow the story.
Long time Lynch collaborator Laura Dern plays Nikki, a famous actress coveting a role in a film directed by Kingsley (Jeremy Irons) with the preposterous title On High in Blue Tomorrows. That something is not quite right becomes apparent when her neighbour Grace Zabriskie announces that ‘today is tomorrow’ and that Nikki has won the role. Once filming begins, Nikki becomes her character, Susie Blue, and has an affair with her co-star (Justin Theroux). It soon becomes impossible to tell whether the character we’re watching is Nikki or Susie as there is very little to distinguish the two. Confusion sets in with the introduction of brown rabbits in a pastiche of a modern-day American soap; the characters from the original Polish production of On High in Blue Tomorrows appear, and a troupe of dancers start singing Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s 1962 pop song ‘The Loco-Motion’. Why? Lynch probably doesn’t even know the answer.
Selected release from Fri 9 Mar.